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Is tramadol an anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Sep 26, 2022.

Official answer


No, Tramadol is not an anti-inflammatory drug or muscle relaxer. It’s a synthetic opioid that relieves pain. Because it’s not an anti-inflammatory drug, it likely won’t reduce any swelling you have when taken alone. But, tramadol is often combined with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or acetaminophen to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Tramadol is typically used after a surgical procedure or for painful conditions like arthritis. It was designed in a lab, and it was modeled after the natural opioid codeine. Tramadol blocks pain in two different ways:

  • It works like a traditional opioid, blocking pain signals from opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system.
  • Unlike other opioids, tramadol also acts like some antidepressants, reducing pain by keeping pain messages from traveling between brain cells.

Brand names of tramadol include:

It’s also available in generic form. Combined medications like Ultracet (tramadol and acetaminophen) are also approved. Sometimes it is prescribed along with an NSAID, like ibuprofen. When used alone, tramadol doesn’t have the same side effects that NSAIDs can have, such as kidney problems or bleeding in the stomach or intestines.

However, like traditional opioids, Tramadol can cause unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Sweating

As with other opioids, Tramadol can be abused and misused, so preventive measures against addiction and abuse should be taken. Tramadol and other opioids are safest when taken only as prescribed.

  1. Tramadol tablets. September 1, 2019. Available at: [Accessed September 14, 2020].
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Managing pain with medications after orthopaedic surgery. February 2018. Available at: [Accessed September 2, 2020].
  3. Toupin April K, Bisaillon J, Welch V, et al. Tramadol for osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 May 27;5(5):CD005522.
  4. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tramadol hydrochloride extended-release capsules. May 2010. Available at: [Accessed September 3, 2020].

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